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D-428 OKs budget with $2.3M deficit

DeKALB – The DeKalb School District 428 board approved a budget with a $2.3 million deficit with little debate Tuesday.

Despite getting an extra $400,000 in general state aid payments from the state last year, the district is projected to lose $1.3 million this year when the state shrinks its pro-ration rate from 95 percent to 89 percent.

Board President Tom Matya said the board and district officials did everything they could in order to shrink the deficit.

“I think it’s important to note that, due [to the] diligence of the administration and some of the action the board has taken, this could have been a lot worse,” Matya said.

Andrea Gorla, the district’s superintendent for business and finance, also noted that any further reductions at this point would directly affect students, as they can only make so many cuts on the administrative side of education.

Matya said that if it wasn’t for the state cutting $300,000 from the district’s transportation budget, and for the reduction in general state aid, the budget probably would have been balanced this year.

Despite the deficit, the board will not have to file a deficit reduction plan because the district has a fund balance that is more than three times the size of the deficit, Gorla said.

In an interview after the meeting, Matya said this is a good sign, but it’s unsustainable.

“It’s a healthy sign, but you can’t live off that,” Matya said. “We clearly are hoping we can ... turn some things around at the state. We’ll continue to look at things within the district. But we’ve already raised class sizes, we’ve cut our administration staff. It’s going to be difficult to find many more additional cuts.”

The board hosted a public hearing on the budget before its approval, and only one person took advantage of the opportunity.

Dave Andrews, of the 600 block of Karen Avenue in DeKalb, asked the board about the status of the finance and facilities advisory committee. The committee is a group of officials tasked with coming with cost-saving measures the district can implement in the future.

Andrews said he had heard rumors flying around. He heard secondhand that the district might go to a seventh and eighth grade model for middle school.

Board Vice President Tracy Williams told Andrews to not rely on rumors for information. He said that any recommendations from the committee will have supporting documentation with it, and the board will seek public comments on it.

“It’s not something that’s going to happen over night,” Williams said. “It’s not something that’s going to happen quickly.”

Sitting in the wings is a $28 million construction grant that the district can use for anything. Matya said the committee is also looking at ways this money can be invested in the D-428 students.

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